Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 38, Number 25. 2nd October 1975
The results below were compiled from questionnaires distributed to over 500 students in some 20 courses finishing at mid year in the Political Science and History departments. We undertook the work in the belief that teaching is not given enough emphasis at the moment in the University, and outlined this belief in two earlier articles in Salient.
Eventually what we tried to do was to provide both students and staff with some readily available comments on these courses in the hope that they would lead to a wider-awareness of the importance of teaching and a greater amount of staff-student communication. The extent to which these aims were fulfilled is discussed below.
A copy of the questionnaire with a 'typical' response appears on this page. Students were asked to fill in coded responses in particular boxes, and then asked more open-ended questions. We were disappointed at the low number of replies to the last question on the value of such questionnaires and possible suggestions for improvement (of which there were none), but otherwise replies were useful.
From the questionnaires such as that reprinted here we totalled the number of replies to each question, and then divided by the number of people who had replied to that question (i.e. excluding those who didn't answer or indicated no opinion). These coded results are presented at the beginning of each course, and indicate the "average" opinion of it in the particular areas.
One possibly surprising trend was for many people to criticise the course severely in the written comments but to give "high" marks in the coded responses. This possibly indicates that the coded questions were not all that relevant in many people's eyes.
What is notable about these results is their "high marks" for nearly every course. The lowest on the "recommended" question was 1.59, indicating that 60% would recommend the course. Organisation, workload and lecturers' abilities all rated highly, with the exception being for the amount of student say in how courses are run. While some courses had a high mark, others were clearly unpopular in this respect (although some respondents classified the question as "not relevant" — which is relevant in itself).
The written replies were, by and large, more critical than the coded responses. This was because critics tended to write longer (and generally better) than those who approved of the courses. Particularly was this so for Pols 213, where three, students covered the entire back of the form with their criticisms. In the summaries of these points, we have tried to be as fair as possible, but this source of bias may be apparent below.
To what extent did we achieve our aims? In many respects the long delay in getting the results out will limit the effects. We apologise for this but in view of our other commitments it was unavoidable. Generally, the need for better teaching in the University is becoming, albeit slowly, more recognised and we consider that students, the receivers of the education, should have as much, if not more say, in this as anyone. However, while the publishing of results like these can create some awareness of what is happening and how students view it, there are unfortunate "bureaucratic" tendencies in the approach we used. What is necessary for real student participation in courses is for the students in those courses to get together and work out their own ideas and expectations, before putting these into practice. Only in this way can we really achieve a more democratic education system, even within the limitations that the "cult of the expert" and more generally society impose.
In conclusion then, we feel that the exercise was useful in revealing student opinions about courses, and hope that the results will create a better teaching atmosphere. However, in view of the time taken to process them, and the more political objections raised above, there are possibly more effective ways of getting greater student participation in their courses and greater control over their destinies.